ENews Princeton Engineering

Photo of H. Vincent Poor
Dean Vince Poor in the Computer Science building.

Dear Friends,

Whether they are developing new ways to fight diseases such as HIV/AIDS and diabetes, developing lasers to detect hidden bombs or helping to guide federal technology policy, our faculty and students are bridging the gap between academics and applications.

As a recent example, take Valentina Shin and Patrick Wendell, two computer science seniors who took top spots in a prestigious national research competition.

Their projects seem wildly different. Valentina helped reconstruct ancient Greek art; Patrick developed a way for servers to efficiently route enormous numbers of internet requests. Yet both students applied the fundamental concepts they've learned through their Princeton engineering education to develop effective solutions to real-world problems.

We can all be heartened knowing that Valentina, Patrick and the other engineers noted in this newsletter are on the job and putting their knowledge to work for society.

-- H. Vincent Poor *77
Dean, School of Engineering and Applied Science
Michael Henry Strater University Professor of Electrical Engineering

Using math to fight disease

Using mathematical concepts, Princeton researchers have developed a method of discovering new drugs for a range of diseases by calculating which physical properties of biological molecules may predict their effectiveness as medicines.

The technique already has identified several potential new drugs that were shown to be effective for fighting strains of HIV by researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

"The power of this is that it's a general method," said Princeton chemical and biological engineering professor Christodoulos Floudas, who led the research team. "It has proven successful in finding potential peptides to fight HIV, but it should also be effective in searching for drugs for other diseases."

Floudas, the Stephen C. Macaleer '63 Professor in Engineering and Applied Science, and Princeton engineering doctoral student Meghan Bellows-Peterson collaborated on the study with researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Using Math to Find Drugs
New laser may find bombs

'Air laser' holds promise for bomb sniffing

Princeton engineers have developed a new laser-sensing technology that may allow soldiers to detect hidden bombs from a distance and scientists to better measure airborne environmental pollutants and greenhouse gases.

"We are able to send a laser pulse out and get another pulse back from the air itself," said Richard Miles, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton, the research group leader and co-author on the paper. "The returning beam interacts with the molecules in the air and carries their fingerprints."

The new technique differs from previous remote laser-sensing methods in that the returning beam of light is not just a reflection or scattering of the outgoing beam. It is an entirely new laser beam generated by oxygen atoms whose electrons have been "excited" to high energy levels. This "air laser" is a much more powerful tool than previously existed for remote measurements of trace amounts of chemicals in the air.

MSNBC ran a story about the research on the Innovation section of its website noting that the laser is "thousands of times stronger than LIDAR, which enables it to determine not just how many contaminants are in the air but also the identity and location of those contaminants."

The new technology was covered by a number of other media outlets, including Discovery News, Daily Tech, and the UK's Register.

Prof. Felten goes to Washington

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) named Edward Felten, a Princeton professor of computer science and public affairs, as the agency's first chief technologist to help guide government policy in an era when technology has a growing influence on businesses and consumers.

Felten is the founding director of the Center for Information Technology Policy (CITP), a Princeton research center that explores the connection between technology, government policy and the social sciences. He is taking a leave of absence from the University for his one-year appointment to the trade commission position, which began in January.

In addition to his new duties, Felten is the second featured host for Princeton's "Conversation With..." video series on Facebook, which gives the broader community an opportunity to engage with University leaders, faculty, students and alumni on a wide range of topics.

In the video, he answers questions and discusses a variety of topics, including how Princeton students can combine academic interests. In a second video in the series, Felten talks about online privacy, Wikileaks, cyber bullies and online policies.

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Computer science award winners

A computer science awards sweep

Princeton computer science students won two of three top prizes in a prestigious competition for their work reconstructing ancient Greek art and making the Internet work more efficiently.

Hijung (Valentina) Shin and Patrick Wendell, both seniors in computer science, received the Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Awards 2011 from the Computing Research Association, which recognizes exceptional research contributions by undergraduates.

Two other Princeton computer science students, Kay Ousterhout and Michael Ty, received honorable mentions in the competition.

Shin was recognized for her work developing a computer program to help archeologists in Greece reconstruct ancient frescos on the Aegean island of Santorini, the site of a catastrophic volcanic eruption around 1650 B.C.

Wendell’s research focused on the future. He worked with computer science professors Jennifer Rexford and Michael Freedman to develop a system for routing online traffic more efficiently over the Internet.

Using lasers to control diabetes

An engineering project to dramatically improve diabetes care was among two research efforts chosen as the first to receive support from Princeton University's Eric and Wendy Schmidt Transformative Technology Fund.

Google CEO and Princeton Engineering alumnus Eric Schmidt and his wife, Wendy, created the $25 million endowment fund at Princeton in 2009 to support the advancement of science and engineering through the development and use of entirely new technologies.

The winning research project in engineering will be led by Claire Gmachl, a professor of electrical engineering and director of the University's Mid-Infrared Technologies for Health and the Environment Center (MIRTHE). With $500,000 from the Schmidt Fund, Gmachl will direct a partnership to develop "clip-on" medical sensors to enable non-invasive, continuous glucose monitoring.

Gmachl will collaborate with Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering Gerard Wysocki to develop fingertip sensors for diabetics that measure blood glucose levels as quickly and painlessly as pulse oximeters measure oxygen saturation in the blood.

Their research plans include the development of quantum cascade lasers that emit light at the precise wavelengths needed for glucose testing as well as the creation of photon detectors, electronics and software that can be incorporated into a clip-on sensor for the fingertip or earlobe that can serve as a prototype for commercialization.

Claire Gmachl

Three faculty elected to National Academy of Engineering

NAE Members

Three Princeton engineering professors have been elected members of the National Academy of Engineering, a high professional honor among engineers.

Christodoulos Floudas, Richard Miles and Alexander Smits were among 68 new members and nine foreign associates elected to the academy, according to a Feb 8 announcement by NAE President Charles Vest.

In the announcement, Floudas, the Stephen C. Macaleer '63 Professor in Engineering and Applied Science and professor of chemical and biological engineering, was noted for his contributions to theory, methods and applications of global optimization in process systems engineering, computational chemistry and molecular biology.

Miles, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, was lauded for his development of laser-based flow field diagnostics and contributions to hypersonic testing technologies.

And Smits, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and chair of mechanical and aerospace engineering, was praised for his contributions to the measurement and understanding of turbulent flows, fluids engineering and education.

Andrew Houck

The latest news from Princeton Engineering alumni

Andrew Houck, picture left, valedictorian of the class of 2000 and assistant professor of electrical engineering at Princeton, received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers -- one of the highest honors bestowed on young researchers.

Linda Abriola *83, dean of the School of Engineering at Tufts University, and Alice Gast *84, president of Lehigh University, have been included in the encyclopedia American Women of Science Since 1900. The book focuses on 500 of the 20th Century's most notable American women scientists.

Richard M. Felder *66, a professor of chemical engineering at North Carolina State University, received the first Global Award for Excellence in Engineering Education from the International Federation of Engineering Education Societies.

John Hamilton '81 was named the president and CEO of Veyance Technologies, the exclusive manufacturer of Goodyear Engineered Products globally.

Curtis Arledge '87 joined The Bank of New York Mellon, an asset management and securities services company, as vice chairman and chief executive officer of the bank's asset management business.

Paul Johnson *88 was named dean of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University.

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Images by Frank Wojciechowski and Volker Steger (Claire Gmachl).

Do you have suggestions, comments or story ideas? Please email them to cemery@princeton.edu.

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